Watford head coach Quique Sanchez Flores believes his players may be affected by the rumours surrounding his future as manager.
Flores confirmed on Thursday there is a break clause in his contract this summer and refused to dispel doubts over whether he will still be in charge at Vicarage Road next season.
Watford owner Gino Pozzo is believed to be unhappy with the team’s miserable second half of the campaign, in which the Hornets have managed only two victories in 11 Barclays Premier League matches.
They can improve that record with a win against already-relegated Aston Villa on Saturday but Flores cannot be sure how his players’ mindset will have been affected.
“When these rumours affect the coach, normally, we know the players can react in two ways,” Flores said.
“The coach needs to be strong and protect them from everything. If someone detects a weakness from the coach it isn’t good for the team or the performances.”
Watford have never avoided relegation from the top flight since the Premier League era began but they have all-but secured safety this time around, sitting 10 points clear of the bottom three with four games left to play.
The Hornets also reached the FA Cup semi-final, which they lost to Crystal Palace at Wembley last weekend.
“When I came here the objective of the club was very, very clear – how important it is to establish the club in the Premier League,” Flores said.
“This is the first step but it is the most difficult step. The first year is difficult. The players think about if they want to come here. We had problems last summer to get good professional players from another level.
“It is the first step and we have put the first step in the future of the club.
“The main target was to stay in the Premier League. The FA Cup for us, sorry, it was like an amazing prize and we tried to enjoy it, but the only thing we talked about was staying in the Premier League.”
Watford’s survival may be given added perspective against Villa, whose dismal campaign has seen them win only three times all season.
A top-half finish is still within reach for the Hornets but Flores warned his side against complacency this weekend.
“The difference between Aston Villa and Watford isn’t too much,” Flores said.
“They are in the relegation zone and we are in a good position but they have very good players who are in the bad moment.
“When I used to watch the Premier League, they were one of the historic teams but we know perfectly their squad and the potential of this team is very high.”